I have a question for those screamers who claim to be students of the Chicago School of Economics. Or have a gig at one of the business television networks.

 

What part of the Bill of Rights says “Congress shall make no law or allow no tariff abridging the right of citizens to gather at Walmart and buy cheap Chinese crap”?

 

To listen to most of the folks on CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg, you’d think they replaced the Second Amendment with that.

 

I’ve been in business, negotiating deals, for most of my adult life.  A bad deal is when you memorialize being taken advantage of.  A good deal is when all parties to the deal get something they want.

 

Our trade deal— from the beginning of modern time to date—with China can generously be called a bad deal.

 

Apparently we want the cheapest flat screen television sets so badly we’re willing to give up our rights to sell stuff in China to get them.  And if President Trump thinks that’s a bad deal and wants to impose tariffs to correct it, the companies importing and selling those sets scream that the American consumer is going to take a beating.  As opposed to the American worker, who of course, are one and the same.

 

Then, when it all is sorted out by the Wall Street Journal, that beating appears to be about $800 a year per family.  And, keep in mind that the Journal is also populated by many of the same screamers on TV.

 

The big weekend story was that Apple could be hurt because most of its products are assembled in China.

 

As an iPhone user (in fact, I use just about every Apple product except the Mac) my humble suggestion to Apple CEO Tim Cook would be build your products in, say, Viet Nam or, here’s a real idea: how about Minnesota, down the street from where Mike Lindell makes My Pillows?  No matter how much you say the words multi-national, living in Cupertino has to be nicer and more efficient than Beijing.

 

At some point you have to realize that the word “nationalism” is not a four letter word.

 

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started their companies because you can do that in the United States.  They expanded to markets like China in a search for new markets.

 

And, let me tell you a little about our “friends” in China.  They owe me and millions of other Americans millions of dollars in defaulted bonds which their government doesn’t want to pay.  Those bonds were issued before China became Red China and many of us either bought them or inherited them.  (You can read about that at the American Bondholders Foundationhttp://www.americanbondholdersfoundation.com)  They were sold by Wall Street firms who today are still selling Chinese debt.

 

So, I’m not very sympathetic to the words “trade war” because I doubt that the Chinese have the economic muscle to cause us much pain—not nearly as much as the folks on business TV would like us to believe.

 

Simply put, President Trump is right and these guys are wrong.  After all, God, it is said, invented Economists to make Astrologers look good.

 

And if it costs us $800 a year per family—or even significantly more—to make that point to the leaders of Red China, buy less cheap Chinese crap and more stuff made in America.  It will strengthen our hand and, in the long term, make our lives better.

 

Trump advisor Larry Kudlow explained the issues very succinctly to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.  “Intellectual property theft has to be fixed. Forced technology transfer and ownership of American companies has to be fixed. Cyber interventions have to be fixed. Tariff and nontariff barriers have to be fixed. And there have to be very, very strong enforcement provisions.”

 

To say that none of this is worth taking strong steps like tariffs is exactly like the Democrat House saying that there’s no crisis on the border.

 

This President fixes things.  The Chinese aren’t used to dealing with a President who fixes things.

 

They will learn soon enough.

 

In the meantime, while they are dancing, pay attention to Kudlow’s observation about that, “Some of the Chinese officials have said the agreement was too unbalanced.  No.  The relationship has been too unbalanced and because of these problems of unfair and sometimes unlawful trading practice, we have to have a very strong agreement to correct, to right, these wrongs before we would be satisfied.”

 

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Fred Weinberg is a columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

Published in Opinion

The robot uprising, continues. Back in December, Walmart announced a partnership with Brain Corp, a Sand Diego based software technology company. Brain Corp, it seems, will provide the world’s largest retailer with - AI robots! As janitors!

That’s right! Walmart now has robot janitors. Well, not all Walmart's. In fact, back in December it was a rollout program with about 300 or so robots in as many stores. But the program has proven to be wildly successful for the company and so Walmart announced it will add thousands of new robots in more than 4500+ stores. All of which should be operational by February 2020.

Basically, the robots scrub the floor. According to the Brain Corp website, the “Auto-C,” cleaner robots:

“...allow store associates to quickly map a route during an initial training ride and then activate autonomous floor cleaning with the press of a single button. The robot uses multiple sensors to scan its surroundings for people and obstacles … 

But that's not all they can do. They can also scan shelf inventory, scan boxes as they come off delivery trucks and then sort the boxes onto conveyor belts.

Obviously, Walmart puts a largely positive spin on the robot uprising saying the Auto-C is more efficient and that by the way, “no one really likes the job of janitor anyway” (Their words, not mine).  

While it’s true that robots are more efficient than people, it still means that a robot is taking the job of a person. Positive spin aside, I find it unlikely that someone would choose 1) I’m super happy to let a robot take my job vs. 2) I have a job. Especially, since many experts in the field agree that automation will take over approx. 40% of the U.S. jobs in 15-20 years. That’s - well … not great.

Walmart claims that their “smart assistants” will allow workers to focus on selling merchandise & customer service roles. That’s true. What Walmart doesn’t say is that they are going to have to get rid of a large portion of their work staff as they hand jobs over to “smart assistants.” So, yeah - the employees that remain will certainly have more time to focus on selling merchandise. Fact.

The folk that get laid off might want to take some classes in robot repair. That’s probably going to be a well sought after job in about 20 years. Just sayin.

Published in Technology
%PM, %16 %873 %2018 %19:%Oct

Sears declares bankruptcy

On Monday morning sources around the country reported on the Sears bankruptcy. But that doesn’t mean the company is out of business. Well, not yet anyway. It’s a good ol’ fashioned restructuring type of bankruptcy. I don’t believe that many feel the restructuring will work but there it is.

 

There is blame o’plenty. Current CEO Eddie Lampert blames Sears retirees. Analysts around the globe blame the CEO for his bad decisions not committing to online sales. Common sense and reason suggests that Walmart and Amazon gobbled up Sears customers like an old school game of Pac Man. It might even have been because of that time in 2003 when Sears sold its highly lucrative credit card business to Citigroup. No, seriously, that credit card business was more than 50% of the company’s profits. And they sold it off. *shrugs*

 

Anyway. It was probably a giant mixture of events that led Sears to inevitable bankruptcy after 130 years in business. CNN interactive made a really nice timeline of the company leading up to Monday’s announcement.

 

This all seems eerily familiar to my childhood. I grew up in MPLS, MN and we had a huge Sears building on Lake Street, kind of midtown Minneapolis. And I spent many an hour walking those retail halls or getting my keys made there or wondering why we could only shop on floor 1-3 but the building clearly had several stories above those - what was happening there? I even have fond memories of scrolling through the Sears catalog and circling all the toys I wanted for Christmas. Our Sears building closed down in 1994 and was eventually declared a national landmark building. Then in 2006 it was reopened as the Midtown Global Market with apartments and condos above. I’ve also spent many an hour eating and drinking at the Midtown Global Market so it all came full circle for me.

 

For the Sears company however, it all came down to that $134 million dollar payment they had due on Monday. And they couldn’t afford to make it. Hence the bankruptcy and restructuring.

Everything Sears seems to be fading fast. Even the famous Chicago Sears Tower, at once the tallest building in the US, was eventually bought and renamed the Willis Tower. The only silver lining here for Sears - I’m pretty sure everyone in the world still calls it the Sears Tower.

 

Again, this isn’t the end for Sears (yet) but the company does plan to close more than a hundred underperforming stores.  

 

Published in Money

A move to the city, any city, can be daunting. You don’t know where to go, what to do, and with whom to do what you don’t know. But you’re a local now, so act like it. These are the apps to make your move to the city easier

 Google

Of course Google is tops when it comes to apps. Without it I wouldn’t have discovered some of the apps listed below, and since Google utilizes the microphone you can use it relatively safely while behind the wheel of a car.

Whether you’re searching for the most affordable or best-rated movers, what your income tax rate will be in your new state, how to forward your mail or re-register to vote, or comparing internet and television packages available in your area, Google has the answer. It’s also the best at telling you the best route to your new home in the city.

2)     Google Maps

Google Maps is the king of map apps. Apple’s Maps isn’t even in the same league. With Google Maps you’re given the approximate time it would take to get where you’re going on a train or bus, bicycle or on foot. You also get the approximate price of what an Uber or Lyft would cost and the amount of time it would take to get where you’re going via taxi. You have to enable both the Lyft and Uber apps in Maps to do the same.

With Google Maps you can easily change the method of travel to view a recommended map and it previews the time it would take to get there. Apple’s Maps assumes you’re driving and doesn’t preview the amount of time it would take to walk, take public transit, bicycle or get a taxi. It’s a big mistake for a company that prides itself on ease of use.

While Google Maps still struggles with bicycle routes (it doesn’t take into account that a dead end road is still passable by bicycle), it’s still far better than Maps. Here’s why: when you search “parking near Target Field” in Maps (which you have to type because Maps doesn’t utilize the microphone like Google), the app shows you Target Field. That’s it. When I simply say “parking near Target Field” in Google Maps (a handy feature for use while driving since it’s usually illegal to use your phone and drive in most cities), I get a list and map of parking options near Target Field. The only thing missing is the price of each, which brings me to one of my favorite apps to make your move to the city easier…

3)     Park Whiz

While BestParking bids itself the #1 Parking App, Park Whiz had the Google SEO down, which is why I used them first. I fell in love immediately. There’s nothing better than discounted parking.

One of the best things about moving to a city is the increased access to great food and entertainment and the environment of downtown, but finding affordable parking that is near your restaurant or venue can be a hassle. Not anymore. When you search “parking near Target Field” in Park Whiz, you not only get a list and map of parking lots near Target Field, you get the price of each spot and distance from your venue.

It gets better. You ever pull into a parking garage and see an open parking space on the first level next to the exit and pull in to find it reserved? We all have, but now you can park in that primo spot next to the exit. Parking apps like Park Whiz and BestParking resell those reserved parking spaces when they’re not being used. Just hit the assistance button upon exit and give the attendant your confirmation code.

That’s how I ended up paying $7 and change on the first level of a garage right next to the exit a mile from my venue. I don’t mind a nice walk there and back, and I certainly won’t pay $20 to park for three hours. If I can drive a 20-mile, round trip and park for less than $10 between parking and fuel, that’s $5 cheaper than an Uber or Lyft and more convenient than a $5, two-hour round trip on a bus.

4)    Craigslist

I found the place I live now using the Craigslist app. I favorited the only two-bedroom apartment and garage I could find 20 minutes from work for $850, utilities included except for electric, which amounts to heat and air conditioning.

Craigslist would be higher on this list if the community was more thoughtful when it comes to correspondence. I drove 40 miles to score some first-come, first-serve book shelves that were posted that morning. I emailed the person to see if they were available, but since he had the stuff in his driveway, a passerby who got there first scored them just before I arrived. He didn’t send me a message to let me know they were gone until after I had pulled out of his driveway. I did, however, discover two great places downtown to get food and see live music and eat really good ice cream or drink espresso exploring the area with Google Maps .

“Free Stuff” is the best category in the Craigslist app and probably my favorite thing in the world besides Google, Google Maps and Park Whiz. I scored a free wooden, queen-sized bed frame complete with six drawers that slide in underneath and a headboard with three separated shelves for books, alarm clock, smartphone, etc. I scored a cheap entertainment table for my new 4K Ultra HD TV and stereo amplifier from the same folks.

I also scored a Yamaha 5.1 surround sound stereo with subwoofer and 220-watt amplifier for $60. It’s the same amplifier for which I paid $120 and sold for $60 along with the 5.1 surround sound speakers and subwoofer. These speakers aren’t as good as those, but there aren’t many home theater surround sound stereos with 220-watt amplifiers. What results is the loudest home theater system I’ve ever heard. My buddy, who was an aspiring DJ for a while, DJ Make it Rain Coate, was the only person I knew who has ever had a stereo louder than my old Yamaha.

I could have scored a free desk, but got a better, smaller option from a friend. I can still pick up a dresser if I want, but I fear it will shrink my tiny bedroom even further.

My second favorite category on the Craigslist app is “Tickets For Sale.” I’m a big sports fan, so getting a great deal on tickets that impress the scalpers puts a big smile on my face. It rarely happens since Minnesota sports teams have been pretty bad these last few years, but I sense things are turning around.

I’m also a theatre buff and enjoy a good concert, too, and the Craigslist app is the first place I go before Ticketmaster, Vivid Seats, SeatGeek or Gametime. In fact, I’ve only ever used SeatGeek and Gametime to get the discount for signing up for their newsletter.

Generally people on Craigslist are looking to get face value for their tickets. Avoid any of the posts that are in all capital letters or use a generic photo of a logo and not a photo of the view from the seats. If you follow this rule you’ll avoid looking at a bunch of listings meant to redirect you to a reseller’s website.

5)     Amazon

I didn’t take advantage of the Amazon app until after my move to the city, but I could have had all the essentials to fill my new home waiting for me when I got there. Amazon offers a pantry service to Amazon Prime members, and it really does have the best deals on all your pantry products. When it comes to non-refrigerated food items, cleaning products, garbage bags, toothpaste, etc., I’ll never have to make another trip to the dollar store or Wal-mart. (Amazon and Wal-mart are in quite the price war, which is great for you, the consumer.) I was forced to stand in line at Wal-mart while I could have been simply opening boxes at my house and starting dinner.

 Honorable Mention: Groupon 

Because I didn’t have food sent to my new home ahead of me, I could have taken advantage of Groupon. The discounts are deep, and from now on I probably won’t eat at another restaurant unless I have a Groupon. If you love sushi, Thai, Indian and Italian food like me, you know it can get expensive. Well, I’m seeing up to 45 percent off restaurant food on Groupon.

From comedy tickets to spas and massages to dental care and plastic surgery, you can find a Groupon for it in the city. Even psychic readings are cheaper on Groupon. It’s an app too easy not to use.

 SINGLES ONLY – Match

Sure you could continue swiping left with the free Tinder and OKCupid apps, but Match is where it’s at whether you’re looking for respectable folks for friendly encounters or searching for your life partner. I appreciate how Match considers political and religious preferences when matching people because that’s what smart people talk about.

While Match is expensive ($25 per month for the three-month package), I can honestly say it works. I haven’t found my life partner yet, but I have met people I enjoy and that’s worth $25 when you’re alone and new to a city. My mother met her husband on Match, and apparently Match is responsible for the most first dates and second dates amongst online dating sites. You can try it for seven days for free and cancel anytime. 

So those are the apps to make your move to the city easier. Don’t make the mistake I did and discover them too late. Use the apps early and often.

Published in News & Information